SAN DIEGO — Andre Guardi kicked a 42-yard field goal on the final play Saturday night to give Utah a 39-37 win over San Diego State at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
Utah, which had led by 18 points in the first quarter, scored 12 unanswered points in the final 3:52 to stun the Aztecs and 22,474 fans.
After trailing, 37-27, the Utes closed to within three on a 2-yard run by Eddie Lewis with 3:52 to play. The score was set up when Kevin Polston recovered Chris Hardy's fumble at the SDSU 28.
Utah's closed to one, 37-36, when Aztec punter Kevin Ross fumbled a snap and recovered it in the end zone with 2:12 to play.
The Utes regained possession at their 33 after Ross punted from his 20. They drove 43 yards in eight plays, setting up Guardi's winning field goal.
The field goal spoiled what had been a big comeback for SDSU that was led by reserve quarterback Jim Plum. Todd Santos was removed with 16 seconds left in the first quarter when the Aztecs trailed, 21-3.
Utah remained tied for first place with Air Force in the Western Athletic Conference at 4-0. The Utes are 6-1 overall. SDSU is 1-2 and 3-3.
After rallying the Aztecs from their early 21-3 deficit, Plum again had to regroup them from a 27-23 deficit after three quarters.
SDSU took the lead, 30-27, on a 35-yard run by Hardy with 14:01 remaining. Corey Gilmore gave the Aztecs a 37-27 lead on a one-yard run with 10:17 remaining. Plum had thrown a 46-yard pass to Webster Slaughter the play before Gilmore's second touchdown.
Santos, who began the game eighth nationally in passing efficiency, had been removed with less than impressive statistics. He was 4 of 11 for 98 yards with 2 interceptions.
His last pass was intercepted and returned 86 yards for a touchdown by Erroll Tucker, giving Utah a 21-3 lead with 16 seconds left in the first quarter.
Plum's first series was somewhat impressive as he moved the Aztecs 35 yards to the Utah 45. But on third down, he was sacked for a nine-yard loss.
On Plum's second series, he hit Slaughter for a 10-yard touchdown, cutting the deficit to 21-10. Slaughter caught the ball at the seven and sidestepped three Utah defenders before scoring.
Utah drove to SDSU's 27 its next possession, only to have Ellis Powers intercept an Egger pass.
The Plum-led Aztecs then went 88 yards, scoring on Gilmore's 14-yard run with 5:58 left in the half. Gilmore fumbled the ball, but picked it up on one hop before scoring.
Plum drove the Aztecs 56 yards their next possession, ending with a 26-yard field goal by Chris O'Brien that cut the score to 21-20 with 1:30 left in the half.
O'Brien gave the Aztecs their first lead, 23-21, on a 49-yard field goal 7:10 into the second half. Warren had caught a 31-yard pass from Plum that would have been a touchdown but was ruled out of the end zone.
The Aztec defense had created the go-ahead field goal when Steve Svitenko hit Egger on a blitz and Greg Williamson recovered the fumble at SDSU's 47. The Aztecs drove 22 yards before stalling.
Utah rebounded to retake the lead, 27-23, on a 35-yard pass from Egger to Loren Richey with 4:12 left in the third quarter. The Utes failed on a two-point conversion attempt when Don Woodward caught Egger's pass out of the end zone.
Slaughter returned the ensuing kickoff 53 yards to Utah's 44. However, SDSU was unable to record a first down from there.
SDSU started slowly. After a clipping penalty, sack and illegal procedure on their first possession, the Aztecs were on their one-yard line. They advanced to the 10 before Wayne Ross punted.
On Utah's second offensive play, Eddie Johnson broke loose for a 59-yard touchdown run.
Santos came back to throw an interception to Utah's Rikki Wilson at the SDSU 34. The Utes had a 21-yard pass play nullified by a holding penalty, and the drive concluded with Andre Guardi missing a 44-yard field goal attempt.
O'Brien was successful from 38 yards on SDSU's next possession. Santos had his one big play of the night on the series, a 47-yard pass to Vince Warren.
However, the big plays belonged to Utah for the remainder of the quarter.
Gilmore fumbled the ball away at the Ute 25 late in the quarter, leading to a 10-yard touchdown run by Johnson.
Things got worse. Santos threw the interception to Tucker on the next series, giving Utah an 18-point lead.
The game may have seemed over by then, but nobody told Plum.